It’s hard to pass up a new vampire movie – especially one that feels a bit more grounded than some of the supernatural action flicks we’ve been getting recently. Sure, it’s a comedy, and the main character is a Yiddish bloodsucker who still looks really cool in the 50s and 60s, but I dig the idea of the road trip. blood relatives is another one of those movies that almost flew under my radar, but the trailer convinced me to watch it again. This one was advertised correctly, but it still didn’t give me exactly what I expected.
It’s a project that seems very personal for Noah Segan (Knives out), who is the writer, director and main actor of the film. He plays Francis, a guy who really loves his car and drives around the country, keeps a low profile and does his vampire thing. Maybe he’s enjoying the non-life, but that doesn’t sound like a glamorous or joyful existence. Actually, this story is about him not wanting to accept that he is a father when Jane, played by Victoria Moroles (Teen Wolf, Liv and Maddie), reveal. It turns out that her mother is dead and she wants to find her father. There’s little reason to argue or need a paternity test since she has fangs and can go out in the sun, which clearly shows that she’s half vampire. She’s only 15, so I wonder how vampires in this world can have children, but that’s not the point, and we shouldn’t think about it too much.
For those who love vampire lore and understand the different interpretations of these nocturnal creatures, there’s sadly not much new here. It’s simple and a lot of old folklore is used, like the gag of having to be invited and how Francis always makes sure. It’s funny – almost quaint – but also obvious. Careful observers will notice names like Dr. Seward and Quincey Morris pop up as the film pays homage to Dracula. The vampires here have limited basic mental powers, but everything is deliberately left quite vague. There’s also a hint of a werewolf character that’s more for laughs and isn’t going anywhere, just for a bit more fun.
blood relatives has a few awkward moments as it tackles themes of despicable people, loss, and unwanted responsibility, but it’s far from a monster movie. Even the bloodiest scenes don’t really feel like horror, just physical comedy. The grossest thing is that the two stars share a meal of raw meat right on the styrofoam. Most of the humor is candid, but it’s often subtle and dry as the little moments of absurdity highlight that a vampire is dealing with these very real things. That being said, there’s a vomit gag that feels completely out of place, but the surprise makes it work.
Many of the scenes are downright charming, and much of it is credited to the two lead actors. Segan’s Francis feels so out of time, out of place, and like he’s probably the runt of his own offspring, while Moroles is incredibly expressive and likeable – even when she lets her vampiric nature consume her. The film is incredibly human in a way, even though the two main characters are supernatural. There were several moments when it was easy to forget they were vampires because you just see a reluctant father and a lost little girl. The theme of being a single parent is obvious, but the script approaches it in a number of different ways, some unexpected. I was surprised when Francis actually made the changes to being a typical single guardian (apparently vampires can earn a beer gut) and even went to a single parent therapy group.
The script may be one of the breaking points for some viewers. There’s the road trip angle and some really good scenes, but it’s all about pushing the budding relationship between the two blood parents. Although there is no major conflict or conclusion, we see that their adventures continue. I expected there to be repercussions for his actions or someone realizing what he was and causing trouble for the couple, but the climax feels as mundane as any other scene. It’s just over when the movie feels like we’re reaching the pinnacle of its potential.
Viewers don’t necessarily need bigger stuff or an epic fight at the end, just more in general. I think most viewers will want to have spent more time with these characters and learned more about the world they inhabit. What we have is entertaining and thoughtful, but it never feels like it completely captures the audience. blood relatives won’t be for everyone, but for those who give it a chance, it’s a movie that could be instantly endearing. Personally, I think some people will get more out of it with repeat viewing, but no one can say it overstays its welcome – it’s just a nice quick bite before hitting the road.
As GameSpot’s review policy explains, a score of 7 equates to “Good.” A successful entertainment that is worth seeing, but which may not please everyone.